Yes, I know, on the calendar it is still three weeks away, but weather-wise it is otherwise. It will certainly feel like spring for the next couple of days until it turns cooler Friday. Our thoughts always turn to tornadoes this time of year. We consider March, April and the first half of May as our prime severe weather season. We have had some notable tornadoes over the years this times of year.
Wanted to look back on a specific date—May 27. Actually, that is getting a little out of season for tornadoes, but it seems to be a sore thumb day for this area. Back in 1917, 75 persons were killed and 391 injured. Especially hard hit were Pike and Creshaw Counties in South Alabama with 9 dead and 50 injured. That night destruction was widespread across Blount, NW Jefferson, Walker, Tuscaloosa, Bibb, Talladega, Madison, Marshall and Jackson Counties. Around 8:45 p.m. an F4 tornado tore through the Sayre-Bradford area near the Jefferson-Walker County line. 9 persons died in Sayre and 17 in Bradford. The town of Bradford was nearly wiped off the map. So many trees were uprooted, all roads were blocked and runners on foot were dispatched to get help. About the same time, an F3 tornado touched down in NW Walker County. Carbon Hill and Manchester were hard hit. 6 people died in Carbon Hill and 2 in the Kansas community.
Fast forward many years later to May 27, 1973. An F4 tornado touched down NE of Demopolis and was destined to become Alabama’s longest track tornado finally breaking up on the slopes of Mt. Cheaha in East Alabama. On the way it brought devastation to parts of Greensboro and especially to Brent which was 90% destroyed. 72 persons were injured and 1 killed in Greensboro and 5 died with 56 injured in Brent. A little later, another tornado brought devastation to parts of Center Point area.
—J B Elliott
*The ongoing forecast looks fine.
*Just a few showers with the front late Thursday or Thursday night. Not much rain in most areas.
*Daytime temps back off about 7 to 10 degrees Friday and Saturday.
*We will continue to mention a chance of showers or storms Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. Severe weather or heavy rain seems unlikely at this point.
*Colder air arrives early next week; a freeze looks likely both Tuesday and Wednesday morning with the mercury reaching the 20s.
*Looks like some strong, maybe severe storms in the March 10-12 time frame if the GFS is correct.
*The 12Z GFS shows a major late season cold snap for the eastern and southern U.S. around March 13-15. Looks like winter still has some fight left.
Off to the final Storm Alert 2006 show tonight at Northport... see you there! The next map discussion video will be ready by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow!
* 70 is the high forecast for Birmingham today, about 8 degrees above normal. Just think, it was as low as 19 yesterday morning in Alabama, at Hamilton and Black Creek.
* 5 is how old Jason Simpson was when he became convinced he wanted to be a meteorologist. He remembers watching thunderstorms through the screen door at that age. His sister teased and called him a weatherman. "Seems she was right" says Jason. He does not look much older than 5 now. (just teasing)
* 5 is also the number of major Civil War battlefields that Bill Murray still has to visit. Then he plans to start over.
* 7 is the number of spring training baseball games Bill has attended.
* 2 is the number of major league baseball games I have attended in my lifetime.
* 6 is how many months has passed since Hurricane Katrina moved ashore and devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Coast.
* 15 million is the estimated number of cubic yards of Hurricane katrina debris still to be removed from the Mississippi Coast alone. Can you imagine?
* 19 inches is the San Antonio rainfall deficiency just in the last 14 months.
* 132 days is how long Phoenix has gone without even a sprinkle of rain. A few showers were expected yesterday but it did not happen. There are increasing hopes for rain today and tomorrow but amounts are expected to be 2/10ths of an inch at the most.
* 1.6 inches is till all the snow that Flagstaff has received all winter. One of the most amazing stats I can remember. Flagstaff is in the Northern Arizona snow country. The San Francisco peaks are nearby--the highest points in Arizona along with a ski area. We camped way up on the west slop of one of those peaks one night. It appeared certain that powerful west winds were going to overturn our pickup camper.
* 1.6 inches is also the approxmate "normal" winter snow for Birminghamm. That makes the Flagstaff stat even more amazing.
* 40 below zero was the coldest in Alaska this morning at Wainwright.
* 57 below zero was the wind chill at that same location.
* 4 is how many cups of coffee I have had this morning. Trying to cut back.
* 0 is how many frosted brown sugar cinnamon poptarts I have had since Christmas. Yummy, yummy. I still pause in the isle at the supermarket and talk to the poptarts but i keep moving.
* 500 is the estimated number of shopping carts I have retrieved and returned to their proper place in grocery store parking lots in my life time. Yesterday, I thought I had found a parking place only to find it was blocked by a shopping cart that someone was too lazy to return to the corral which was only 15 feet away. Some people just don't care. One day in a Trussville grocery store parking lot, I grabbed a stray cart that a gust of wind was sending toward a parked car. As I returned it to the corral, a lady stopped to thank me. She said she had just moved here from Germany and said people just did not leave carts in the open where she came from. I don't know about that but it is a nuisiance.
* 1 is how many Storm Alert 2006 programs still to go. It is at 7 tonight in the Tuscaloosa area (at the Northport Civic Center to be exact)
I often get questions about the terms we use here, and in the map discussion videos...
Here is a great glossary site that should help:
That one comes from the NWS in Norman and is really designed for storm spotters, but that should prove helpful as we get into the spring tornado season. I will try to write up my own one day.
MOVIN' ON UP: Spring fever will be running wild today and tomorrow. We expect the mercury to reach 70 today in many commuities, with low 70s likely tomorrow. The NAM is actually printing 76 for Birmingham tomorrow; that seems a little aggressive. We will use the GFS high of 73 in our forecast.
THURSDAY SHOWERS? A weak front will slip in here Thursday evening. We will mention the risk of a few scattered showers, but the system is not impressive with little upper support and limited moisture. Rainfall should be light and spotty.
Daytime temperatures will cool off by about 10 degrees on Friday, with highs back in the 60 to 65 degree range, exactly normal for early March in Alabama.
WEEKEND PREVIEW: Saturday still looks dry with highs in the 60s, and then on Sunday there will be a risk of showers or storms around the state. Looks like our Thursday evening front will be moving northward as a warm front on Sunday. The GFS continues to suggest the best chance of showers Sunday will be over the northern third of the state, north of I-20. Once again, this probably won't be a big rain event.
NEXT WEEK: The pattern amplifies again and cold air drives into the eastern third of the U.S. early next week. Highs drop into the 50 to 55 degree range here Monday, and a late season freeze seems likely both Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Lows should be down in the 20s.
Guess I should mention at this point the average date of the last freeze in Birmingham is March 23, but we have seen freezing temperatures here as late as April 23.
LONG RANGE: The GFS (06Z run) paints a severe weather setup for Alabama in the March 12-13 time frame now, followed by a major late season cold snap around March 15-16. All of this is voodoo, but there is come credibility behind these ideas.
STORM ALERT 2006: The last chance dance is tonight... the final stop on our annual weather tour will be at the Northport Civic Center. The show begins at 7:00... you know the deal... get there early for a good seat! Free shirts for the first 500 people there.
SOUTHEAST SEVERE STORMS SYMPOSIUM: Don't forget the annual Southeast Severe Storms Symposium is this Friday and Saturday (March 3/4) at Mississippi State University. Learn more here:
If you really like weather and want to learn more about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, you will really enjoy this event. Starkville is only one hour west of Tuscaloosa, and two hours west of Birmingham.
TODAY: I will be speaking at Meadow View Elementary School in Alabaster today... with the travel schedule I am not sure I will be able to crank out an afternoon map discussion video, but I will do my best. One way or another I will have a blog discussion post by 3:30 or so....
This year, we have seen thousands of Alabamians. At our first stop in Hamilton, over 1,000 people crowded into the Bevill State Auditorium. We also had over 1,000 people at the show last week in Gadsden. At the Ritz Theatre in Talladega, we ran out of seats 90 minutes before show time! Trust me, we clearly understand the attraction is the subject matter, not the “weather guys”. But, we sure enjoy getting to meet so many people prior to each show. This year’s stories include the saga of Jack Latham, who lost both parents and five brothers and sisters in the March 21, 1932 Alabama tornado outbreak that is the state’s deadliest on record. Mr. Latham was only four at the time, but he has a clear memory of the event and his story is riveting. We also have segments on “global warming” and possible impact on Alabama, the wild hurricane season of 2005 and thoughts on what is to come this year, and some cool new weather technology that is about to hit the air on ABC 33/40, provided by an Alabama company.
We suggest you get down to the Northport Civic Center tonight by 6:00 or so to get a seat; the Trussville Fire Department will have their tornado simulation trailer on site so the kids will have something fun to do if you do come early. We have some great prizes to give away, and the first 500 people get a free t-shirt. If you can’t make the show tonight, we will have a prime time special featuring the video segments in March… we will announce the date and time soon!
As expected, a very nice warm-up is in progress today after the sub-freezing start this morning. Birmingham reports 58 degrees at 1:00, and it sure looks like we are headed for 60 degrees before the day is done.
And, the warming trend continues through mid-week. We should be close to 70 tomorrow, and in the low 70s by Wednesday afternoon. A few high clouds will pass by from time to time, but a good bit of sunshine will get through. We no significant chance of rain through Wednesday.
A weak front will sag through here late Thursday and Friday, but with little upper support the chance of significant rain looks rather small. A few showers could form around the front, but rain amounts should be light and spotty. Temperatures will drop only slightly; I still think we see low 70s on Thursday, but highs on Friday will be in the mid to upper 60s. Still very comfortable.
WEEKEND PEEK: Looks like another "half and half" weekend. Saturday should be dry and mild with temperatures well up in the 60s, but we will have to introduce a chance of rain and thunderstorms on Sunday with an upper impulse rolling through the flow. Looks like the best chance of rain Sunday will be along and north of I-20. South Alabama could very well remain dry.
COLD SHOT: The GFS continues to advertise a shot of cold air moving into the eaastern part of the nation in about 7 to 8 days. The 12Z run is not as cold as the 00Z run from last night for Alabama; the coldest air is shunted east of the state.
LONG RANGE: The 12Z run shows a screaming severe weather setup for Alabama at 384 hours (around March 15), but that is out there in voodoo land. Certainly possible, however. This is the time of the year. Still looks like very typical March weather ahead, with changeable temperatures along with occasional wet and stormy periods.
Sure enjoyed speaking to the second graders today at Rocky Ridge Elementary... they will on the KIDCAM on ABC 33/40 News today at 5:00!
STORM ALERT 2006: Yep, the last chance to see Storm Alert 2006 is tomorrow night at the Northport Civic Center. We begin at 7:00, but come early for a good seat!
SOUTHEAST SEVERE STORMS SYMPOSIUM: Don't forget the annual Southeast Severe Storms Symposium is this Friday and Saturday (March 3/4) at Mississippi State University. Learn more here:
The next video will be posted by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow...
19 (18.6) at Black Creek with heavy frost (NE Etowah County)
20 in Fort Payne (private weather station)
21 at Fort Payne Airport, Gadsden, Florence
22 at Pinson, Crossville, DeSoto State Park, Munford (heavy frost Munford)
23 at Cullman, Meridianville, Leeds, Guntersville, Jasper
24 at Huntsville, Decatur, Madison, Harvest, Albertville, Parrish
25 in Moulton, Muscle Shoals, Alabaster (heavy frost also at Alabaster)
26 in Anniston, Hartselle, Millers Ferry, Northport, Vinemont
27 at Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa*
28 at Shelby County Airport, Section, Vestavia, Reform, Hueytown/Concord
29 at Mentone, Tuskegee, Lillian, and atop Mt. Cheaha
30 in Selma
31 in Bluff Park, Clay (higher elevations stations Birmingham area)
32 in Mobile and Grand Bay
34 in Hoover
31 in Gulf Shores, Bon Secour
* Tuscaloosa temperature based on hourly reports
While the "official" arrival of spring, the vernal equinox, won't happen until 12:26 pm CST March 20, "meteorological" spring arrives Wednesday, and the weather here in Alabama will warm up right on cue.
We begin this day with sub-freezing temperatures, as expected. Huntsville and Decatur are reporting 24, and Birmingham 29 as I write this. But, a strong late February sun will warm us to around 60 degrees this afternoon. And, that warming trend continues with a good chance of low 70s here by Wednesday.
NEXT RAIN? A surface front will drift through here late Thursday or Thursday night, and will bring a risk of a few scattered showers, and slightly cooler temperatures by Friday. This should not be a big rain event; in fact many spots will see no rain at all. And, highs on Friday will be in the 60s, still pretty comfortable.
Most likely our next significant rain event comes late in the weekend on Sunday as a fairly strong impulse moves through the zonal flow over the southern U.S. Most likely some thunderstorms will be involved.
MARCH COLD SNAP: The GFS is advertising a major late season cold snap in the March 5-7 time frame over the eastern and southeast U.S. If it happens to be correct, we would have a hard freeze here on at least one morning in that time frame. The GFS also suggests the chance of a major east coast winter storm.
And... the GFS is hinting at a severe weather setup for the Deep South in the March 10-12 period.
For all of the new readers here, there is not much skill in a specific forecast beyond seven days; model output can be complete voodoo. But, we can watch for trends. And, the trend for March is for active, changeable weather here. Just what you expect this time of the year.
STORM ALERT 2006: Don't forget Storm Alert 2006 is TOMORROW NIGHT (Tuesday night) at the Northport Civic Center at 7:00. This is your last chance to see the show... be sure and come early to get a good seat and meet our weather team.
TODAY: I will be doing a program on weather at Rocky Ridge Elementary School in Hoover; then it it on to the office. I will have the afternoon video ready by 3:30. Have a nice Monday!
Alan Gerard and John Gagan of the National weather Service Forecast Office in Jackson, Mississippi have corroborated with John Gordon of the National Weather Service in Louisville on some interesting research.
When we think of tornado alley, we think of the area from Texas through Oklahoma into Kansas and Nebraska. And without question, more tornadoes occur there than anywhere in the world. While not questioning the existence of “tornado alley,” the intrepid trio of meteorologists have proven that there is a secondary concentration of tornado activity, and we live in the heart of it.
Mssrs. Gerard, Gagan and Gordon don’t claim credit for the term “Dixie Alley.” They credit it to Alan Pearson, who was the Director of the National Severe Storm Forecast Center. He coined the term after the terrible February 1971 tornado outbreak in the Mississippi Delta. A total of ten tornadoes killed 121 people across Mississippi and Louisiana that day. Dixie Alley covers Alabama, most of Georgia, the western two thirds of Tennessee and all of Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
The researchers used data since 1998, when Doppler radar was fully deployed. They came to the following conclusions:
1. There are 1.5 times as many strong tornadoes (F3 or greater) in Dixie Alley as compared to the traditional Tornado Alley. The total counts was 338 versus 206 during the time period they studied. So, while Tornado Alley had more tornadoes overall than Dixie Alley, the occurrence of strong to violent tornadoes is much greater in the South.
2. Killer tornadoes are more prevalent in Dixie Alley than in Tornado Alley. There were 66 versus 24. A lot of factors go into that statistic. First and foremost, the population density in Dixie Alley is greater than that of traditional Tornado Alley. Additionally, many tornadoes in Dixie Alley are obscured by terrain or wrapped in rain. This makes it harder to see them coming. Also, in the incidence of strong and violent tornadoes across the Plains drops off dramatically after sunset, while in Dixie Alley, the numbers fall much more slowly. So, many more strong tornadoes occur in the dark in the South. This makes them even deadlier.
3. Dixie Alley actually suffers from more “outbreaks” of tornadoes. During the seven year study periods, there were nine days with ten or more strong tornadoes across Dixie Alley, while there were five in Tornado Alley. In addition, the tornado threat is less seasonal in Dixie Alley, with a consistent threat from January through May and a large peak in November.
So, the excellent study is very relevant to us here in Alabama, in the middle of Dixie Alley. They stress that it is preliminary research. See their presentation at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jan/dixieAlley/img0.html.
This brought the 2006 total to 14.67 inches which is a healthy surplus of 5.52 inches.
If the faucet was suddenly cut off and we did not get another drop, we would still show a surplus for the year until March 26.
Montgomery received close to three inches Sunday bringing their total for the year to 9.66--a slight deficiency!
If you were to look up "rainy day" in Uncle Websters, it would surely say, "see February 25, 2006 in Alabama."
Taking a half-mile walk with Little Miss Molly this afternoon, I have never seen the visibility any sharper or clearer. The Old Crow Motel had a majestic look--standing out sharp and clear.
So goes life...